Dopamine Games: Mentalbators, Mentalbating, and Mentalbation

by Charles Lyell on April 2, 2012

“Everything we do, we do to maintain dopamine flow.”
– Charles Lyell

When sex becomes an end unto itself, to trigger dopamine with the expectation of titillating sexual organs, it’s called masturbation.

When beliefs, words, and deceptions are used as ends unto themselves, to trigger dopamine with expectations of boosting safety, peer approval, or esteem, it’s called mentalbation.

Most mentalbators are safety and esteem addicts who don’t want to know they’re a lot like junkies because information that threatens safety or esteem causes dopamine withdrawal. Withdrawal sends addicts scrambling for dopamine injections to temporarily ease the pain. The difference is that junkies use heroin to trigger the dopamine while safety and esteem addicts rely on mentalbation to score the same neurotransmitter.

Mentalbating is so popular that mentalbators have devised a number of transparent, but effective, dopamine games, including:


“The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects.”  – Lord Jeffrey

A Chinese proverb advises, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Complainers score dopamine by bitching about the darkness.

Safety addicts play Complaining to mitigate dopamine withdrawal by assuaging fears. Esteem addicts play to trigger dopamine with esteem-elevating pretensions about being astute, compassionate and/or concerned individuals. Acceptance addicts play to trigger dopamine by winning other complainers’ approval.

As a bonus, Complaining provides gratuitous dopamine hits to players who delude themselves into believing they’re “doing something” when the only thing they’re doing is mentalbating.


“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” – Ernest Bevin

When safety and esteem addicts fear their safety and status are being threatened they experience dopamine withdrawal. Honesty is not an option because admitting to insecurities, fears, or culpability threatens safety and diminishes esteem which exacerbates the pain. To ease the pain, scapegoaters do what chimpanzees do when their dopamine flow is threatened — they look for scapegoats.

Scapegoating mollifies dopamine withdrawal by providing players with a convenient esteem / dopamine protecting ruse along with an effective esteem / dopamine elevating deception. The ruse helps safety and esteem addicts hide from their insecurities and deny responsibility. The deception leaves mean scapegoaters feeling morally superior to demeaned scapegoats.

Scapegoating, like Complaining, is also an easy way for acceptance addicts to win the approval of other mentalbators.


“To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves.”
–  Will Durant

Like Scapegoating, Gossiping is a game favored by petty mentalbators plagued by the dopamine deprivation associated with low self esteem. Playing Gossiping is a duplicitous way to artificially inflate esteem / trigger dopamine by using empty words to tear others down.


“Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous.”  – Voltaire 

Insecure people can not handle the overpowering dopamine deprivation associated with living in a world of unknowns. To deal with a constant sense of dopamine withdrawal, safety and esteem addicts play Certainty.

Certainty players are easy to spot because they’re cocksure about everything, including why their long list of past mistakes, that prove they don’t know what they’re talking about, weren’t actually mistakes.

Notice Me! 

There have been times when I have deliberately tried to take my life… I think I must have been crying for some attention.” – Judy Garland 

Childhood traumas saddle vulnerable youngsters with feelings of inferiority. Traumatized children often turn into needy addicts who spend their lives desperately trying to satisfy insatiable dopamine cravings. Junkies scramble from fix to fix to fix to temporarily deaden the pain of withdrawal. Acceptance, approval, and attention addicts play variations of Notice Me!, Complaining, Scapegoating, Gossiping, and Certainty for the same reason.


“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” – Isaac Asimov

Safety and esteem addicts are constantly on guard against information that cuts off dopamine flow. To deal with real and imagined threats to their safety and esteem, they instinctively play Denial, a popular game that makes it possible to ignore the obvious, deny the undeniable, and dismiss inconvenient truths.

Denial is one of the reasons the information on this site isn’t on thousands of other sites.


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